Sunday, March 10, 2013
Knicks Learn to Cope Without Stars in Victory Over Jazz
The Knicks have won during stretches without Amar'e Stoudemire before over the last two seasons, and now, they'll just be forced to do it yet again.
The news that Amar'e Stoudemire will have surgery on his right knee (forcing him to sit out at least six weeks) is a big blow for a Knicks team that was just starting to find a rhythm with its team more or less at full strength.
Of course, the disappointment from fans over the news should outweigh the sudden outbreak of panic they also may have.
While Stoudemire had begun to provide his team with a real nice consistent boost off the bench, the fact remains that the team also proved earlier this season that they could cope without him as well.
Nevertheless, New York hit the hardwood at the Garden on Saturday night for a matchup with the Jazz. There would be no Stoudemire, but also no Carmelo Anthony, who is reportedly still "day to day" with a knee injury of his own.
As fate would have it, however, the Knicks are quickly garnering a reputation as a team that steps up to the plate and finds a way to win amongst the most dire of circumstances. Saturday evening was no different.
After three games where they pushed their opponent to the limit, losing by 3 or less point in each contest, the Jazz just couldn't keep the pace with the Knicks. Though Utah jumped out to a lead early, New York still managed to take command of the game later in the first quarter, and never looked back.
Mike Woodson's been notorious for his farfetched rotations, opting to bring Stoudemire and J.R. Smith off the bench just a few minutes into contests. With no STAT, Kenyon Martin got the call instead, and gave his team a boost by connecting on a couple of electrifying dunks late in the initial quarter. He would go on to finish with 10 points and 6 rebounds.
But the real offensive hero in Saturday night's game was Steve Novak. The forward has been largely criticized all season long, not just for his inability to defend very well, but also his inability to cash in offensively when his team needs it most. Without STAT and Melo, however, this was the Marquette alum's opportune time to step up, and that he did.
Novak connected on five long balls and finished with 20 points, but it's the way that he did it that was most refreshing. He happened to beat the Jazz defeat by doing different things. Whether it was hoisting the shots up with hands in his face, putting the ball down for a dribble or two, or even driving to the basket, Novak found ways to pour in the points.
J.R. Smith also joined in on the fun too. Without the team's stars, Smith will be looked upon to carry much more of the scoring load. While he can, without a doubt, handle that type of burden, opponents will come prepared to cover him. The Jazz certainly did, throwing a few double-teams at the swingman throughout the game. The reason why Saturday's night contest may have been one of the better outings of Smith's season was because of the way he looked to play off the ball.
He didn't look to drive to the basket or dominate the ball until later on. Instead, he dished it out, finding his teammates ala a nice assist, or even just a hockey assist. He, nevertheless, did go on to lead the team with 24 points by looking for his shot a bit more later on.
Everything seemed to go right for the Knicks on Saturday, and rightfully so. The offense was flowing and there was steady rhythm on both ends of the floor. While the team's offense was solid, the defense was phenomenal was well. A key factor in the victory was furthermore, not only the team's ability to get to the line, but to actually make the free-throws too. The team shot 80% from the charity stripe.
Hopefully the Knicks' 113-84 victory will help set the tone for the squad's forthcoming West Coast trip.